What are the TYPES of needs that an organization might have, and the corresponding XR solutions to fill those needs? Here’s a humble suggestion for an XR-specific buyer journey framework that takes an organization-/B2B user-centered perspective to answer the question of “how can our organization benefit from XR technology?” – whether that would be an expressed or implicit need from the would-be B2B XR adopter.
Adopting XR is not about tech – it’s about change management. This is not a framework to be applied when organizations have reached the “decide TO deploy XR” stage in their transformation process. If and when an organization reaches that stage they will already have matured into the realization and decision of “WHAT to do” – but the question is how they come to that decision. So, this is a framework for coming to the proto-decision THAT there is a viable and optimal path towards filling an organizational need that includes the deployment of XR technology (or, indeed, that there isn’t – if it turns out there isn’t a fitting solution involving XR).
How can your organization benefit from using XR?
XR is an emerging and exponential tech. As such, it’s very hard to answer questions like “what can be done with / what benefits can be had by / what ROI can be expected from / what impact can we create with XR?”. Yet, this is the most common type of question that I’ve been asked over the years by hundreds of decision-makers in large and small organizations, curious about professional use cases for XR after reading about it or maybe trying a VR game for the first time.
One answer could of course be “Anything and Everything!” But that’s not very actionable… or even confidence-inducing. So, a different approach to the probing type of question mentioned above, would be to provide concrete examples of VR/AR projects and implementations from other similar organizations. But… in order to be of general help using that approach we’d need to:
- get a very specific understanding of the needs of the person asking the question,
- be a living wikipedia of earlier use cases,
- have a great technical understanding of the development of XR technology, in order to contextualize the earlier examples in the stage of XR at that time and be aware of the progress made from then until now… and preferrably a bit ahead too, taking into account the potential new project’s lifecycle.
That’s the approach a good XR agency would typically go with. Of course, there’s a high likelihood that the conclusion of the agency, having an incentive to transition from “what could possibly be done” to “what should we do”, would be colored by or even limited to that agency’s earlier work and areas of specialization.
Introducing the BOBI framework
Let us consider an alternative approach to the question about “all possible solutions and benefits from XR” – and begin by breaking down/classifying the solutions into different types. Reality is complex, and the job of a map is to simplify and generalize reality into useful chunks and representations. This is what we’re attempting to do here.
These are the four different types of XR solutions to solve a challenge in a business or organization.
Below, we’ll describe each type in more detail. We will illustrate the BOBI framework using real-life examples of VR/AR implementations. You’ll likely realize that these “types of solutions” aren’t completely separate from each other, and that specific needs will oftentimes involve a combination of solution types.
BYOVR – start small scale or for one-shot events
BYOVR means using consumer-grade software/hardware, bought/owned by employees, for productive purposes.
Bring-your-own-VR solutions are typically used for:
- experimenting and getting familiar with VR hardware in a lighthearted, low-friction way
- small-scale or pilot roll-outs of VR meeting tools, simple 3D design, visualization etc
- one-off big company events in VR
- recreational activity/employee wellness with fun games, VR meditation etc
Who should start with BYOVR?
- Any organization with employees who are already VR enthusiasts/using VR as consumers
- Leadership who can gift employees with VR headsets
- Distributed teams who want to get together “almost physically”
Limitations of BYOVR
- Not very scalable
- Needs a patient and persuasive champion in the organization to make a significant impact
- Can cause IT security issues
- Limited availability of consumer apps of real business value
Off-the-shelf XR software – simply buy and deploy
Off-the-shelf/”OTS” or turnkey solutions means buying a ready-made software product to solve a business problem. It’s often attached to a recurring license cost.
Off-the-shelf XR software is typically used for:
- VR meetings and team activities with enterprise-grade functionality for interactions, security, capacity, reliability etc.
Examples: Spatial, Glue, MeetinVR, Raum
- Education & training in hard or soft skills
Examples: OvationVR, Immerse, StriVR, Fictive Reality
- Streamlined 3D/360 content creation for prototyping, product design, marketing
MetaVRse, Gravity Sketch, Tvori, Medium
- Remote guidance / AR-assisted operations
- Visualizing and collaborating around large datasets or complex 3D models
Examples: Virtualitics, Resolve, Dimension10, The Wild, Arkio
Who should start with off-the-shelf VR/AR software?
- If you can discover a trusted app supplier that offers a software solution suitable to your needs, you should go with that for the simplicity, predictable pricing and reliable support compared to bespoke productions.
- Look for apps with referrals, reviews and recommendations from users similar to you.
Limitations of off-the-shelf VR/AR software
- There’s a growing amount of deployment-ready solutions, but not (yet) “an app for everything” when it comes to business needs.
- “Simply deploy” is of course a simplification. You will need to manage the project from systems integration, IT security, staff training etc and follow-up/debrief, but you can at least skip the “design – develop” parts in the beginning.
Bespoke AR/VR production: Get any XR solution, tailor-made for you
Bespoke or custom VR/AR production means involving consultancies/agencies in producing software or content according to spec, or delivering knowledge-based services like support/maintenance, training, systems integrations, etc
Bespoke XR production are typically used for:
- Specialized content on top of (OR in conjunction with the producers’s own) solution platforms such as VR training, simulations, architectural or product 3D models
- Marketing: creating brand campaigns that leverage VR/AR
- “Anything and Everything”. Depending on your budget and whether you can find the particular producer that suits your need, the sky really is the limit
Who should start with bespoke XR productions?
- Anyone with a clearly defined business need involving the visualization, interaction and collaboration capabilities of XR, who can’t find a suitable “off-the-shelf” supplier.
Limitations of bespoke VR/AR productions
- Since you’re dealing with an agency, studio or consultant, you need to be really clear on formalizing your need into a concrete production and project for them to deliver. If possible, you should have already matured past the Discovery and Exploration stage.
- You need to put an effort into shopping around and sending RFPs to many service providers to find one that understands your business, your strategy and priorities.
In-house AR/VR production: build your own team
In-house XR production means hiring or cultivating talent in one’s own organization and deploy one-off or continuing software/content projects.
In-house XR productions are typically used for:
- A time when XR production becomes a strategic business area
- A time when XR becomes a critical component in many different levels and functions in the company
Who should start with in-house AR/VR production?
- Organizations with strong technical experience in relevant applications of VR/AR
- Companies with a long-term plan for how VR/AR fits into the overall strategy
Limitations of in-house XR production
- Skilled XR talent is hard – and costly – to recruit, train and retain.
The VR/AR industry is in its early stage and rapidly evolving. We will naturally see more and more providers of off-the-shelf XR solutions emerge and mature to fill many professional needs in the simplest way possible. Even as that happens, the options of “BYOVR“, bespoke VR/AR productions and in-house production will always complement the needs of organizations of all different types and digital transformation stages.
We hope the BOBI framework will be a helpful resource for you to identify where you are in the professional XR adopter / buyer journey! If you like this article, please share it with colleagues and friends who might also find value in it.